NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Its Highest-Resolution Panorama Yet

From NASA

March 4, 2020

NASA's Curiosity rover

NASA’s Curiosity rover captured its highest-resolution panorama of the Martian surface between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 2019.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Full image and caption

NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured its highest-resolution panorama yet of the Martian surface. Composed of more than 1,000 images taken during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday and carefully assembled over the ensuing months, the composite contains 1.8 billion pixels of Martian landscape. The rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam, used its telephoto lens to produce the panorama; meanwhile, it relied on its medium-angle lens to produce a lower-resolution, nearly 650-million-pixel panorama that includes the rover’s deck and robotic arm.

NASA's Curiosity rover

Along with an almost 1.8-billion-pixel panorama that doesn’t feature the rover, NASA’s Curiosity captured a 650-million-pixel panorama that features the rover itself.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Full image and caption

Both panoramas showcase “Glen Torridon,” a region on the side of Mount Sharp that Curiosity is exploring. They were taken between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, when the mission team was out for the Thanksgiving holiday. Sitting still with few tasks to do while awaiting the team to return and provide its next commands, the rover had a rare chance to image its surroundings from the same vantage point several days in a row. (Look closer: A special tool allows viewers to zoom into this panorama.)

It required more than 6 1/2 hours over the four days for Curiosity to capture the individual shots. Mastcam operators programmed the complex task list, which included pointing the rover’s mast and making sure the images were in focus. To ensure consistent lighting, they confined imaging to between noon and 2 p.m. local Mars time each day.

NASA Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada guides this tour of the rover’s view of the Martian surface.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“While many on our team were at home enjoying turkey, Curiosity produced this feast for the eyes,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which leads the Curiosity rover mission. “This is the first time during the mission we’ve dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama.”

In 2013, Curiosity produced a 1.3-billion-pixel panorama using both Mastcam cameras; its black-and-white Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, provided images of the rover itself. Imaging specialists carefully assemble Mars panoramas by creating mosaics composed of individual pictures and blending their edges to create a seamless look.

Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates Curiosity’s Mastcam. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Navigation Cameras and the rover.

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37 thoughts on “NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Its Highest-Resolution Panorama Yet

  1. Charles, it looks like you have to have the image code sequence to find the panorama image (or NASA/JPL is too complex for me?). Thanks.

    • RS Brown

      Thanks for the link. Very fine image.

      The fractures in the rock bring back many memories. Some good and some frustrating. Regardless, this looks like a potential shallow aquifer = water-bearing rocks. I wonder if there is any liquid water below the surface.

      • Bill, notice also the tendency for surface “oxidation”? Something is going on with the rock/atmosphere interaction.

        • Ron,

          Are you referring to the brown color commonly associated with oxidized iron-bearing minerals?

  2. Looks like a shallow version of Meteor Crater (AKA, “Barringer Crater,” in eastern AZ, for the non-NAs).

  3. very impressive feat for a totally boring photo of some totally unremarkable rocks.

    Can’t wait until Thanksgiving comes round again. Maybe they can go to something worth looking at next time.

  4. The stereo 360 Degree Panorama link near the bottom of the article displays on UTube, just pause it after it loads and you can drag it around/zoom as you would expect. It is the full res 1.8 Billion pixel stereo 360 view.
    On that UTube page is a link to the actual static 1.8 Billon pixel jpeg images, there are two of them, not as much fun as the stereo view…

  5. Mars will be a great place to map the geology….without vegetation in the way. You can even take rock samples for now before it is designated park status.

  6. The Australian ABC News has the chutzpah to headline an article with: “The human race is not special.”
    —source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-03/global-warming-mass-extinction-psychological-impact/11923370
    —WUWT related article and comments: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/03/03/aussie-government-abc-predicts-mass-extinction-in-our-lifetimes/

    Take a look at those photos in the above article and consider what had to occur to obtain them since homo sapiens first walked on Earth (and all that accomplished in what geologically amounts to just a “blink of the eye”).

    Nothing special to see here . . . move along . . . move along.

    • Yeah, Matian rocks are SO much more interesting than the humans who were able to build, launch, land, deploy, photograph, transmit, assemble, analyze, publish and distribute their photos to rubes like us!

      So rocks, stand up and take a bow! Rocks! Rocks??

      Humility becomes them!

      • Don’t underestimate rocks. Remember “ Corpus Earthing” from the original Outer Limits? They may even now be watching, listening, studying us as one studies microbes through a microscope slowly drawing their plans against us……sorry got a little carried away, but a great episode nonetheless.

    • Organic chemistry focuses on carbon compounds, most often carbon when bound with hydrogen. 95% of the Martian atmosphere is CO2, and around 0.03% is water vapor (H2O). Therefore, it’s no big surprise that molecules containing C-H bonds are found on Mars. But to associate such molecules with the life form we know as “truffles” is absurd . . . one could just as easily have stated “human molecules discovered on Mars”.

      BTW, complex “organic” molecules have also been found in interstellar nebula (ref: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29368984 ) . . . what conclusions do you draw from that fact?

  7. Austere serenity, like a desert awaiting the rains that will enable it to spring into profuse blossom. These awesome images beckon the eye to peer over the next earth-like ridge and across the next vale. Unknowing, the parched martian soils await the rains that will never come again, denied forevermore by the icy grip of global cooling.

  8. Sorry to quibble over the headline, but “snaps” is not exactly the right verb for a panoramic image composite of 1,000 separate images taken over a considerable period of time…..

  9. Charles-

    Thanks very much posting this. I would have missed it otherwise. I went to link yirgach posted, clicked to full screen, and zoomed in until the edges disappeared:

    WOW! just WOW! As a teenager in the ’50s I read all the classic sci-fi writers, plus the real world work of Goddard and Von Braun, and dreamed of going to Mars. Now, at 80 years old, thanks to NASA’s rover, I’ve been there.

    And if Greg (3/6/20 at 4:21 am) has a soul so asleep that he can’t appreciate the wonder of it, that’s a pity. I feel sorry for him.

    • Probably a billion or two years ago, there was life on Mars, when there was oceans of surface water. And maybe we will discover some form of similar to Earth bacterial life deep underground when they can drill down into an aquifer of sorts. But I doubt there will be life found on the surface now just due to radiation with little atmosphere, amongst other reasons, even if liquid water is flowing from time to time. But who really knows? We will probably know within most of our lifetimes, assuming we live another 20-25 years. I assume it it will be a done deal we find evidence of ancient life on Mars similar to early life on the good Earth.

      It does make me marvel at Man’s ability to have explored every planet fairly close up within our solar system, including Pluto. And that we can view this photo from Mars in such detail. Given that the grandparents I grew up with that were all born before the first airplane or rocket flew, we have come a long way in a hurry.

    • “I dont (sic) understand why Mars is not covered in the amazing system of LIFE just like earth.”

      Low Martian atmospheric pressure (significantly below the vapor pressure of water), absence of liquid water, absence of organic fertilizer in Martian soil, and intense solar UV radiation due to to relatively thin Martian atmosphere. That does it.

  10. A great place to move CONgress to!

    Plenty of room for expansion and an eternal
    echo chamber.

  11. I think the original goal was to get Curiosity all the way to the top of Mt Sharp, tho I’m sure that was “aiming for the top” & never really expected to get there. It won’t get that far, but the science discoveries have been very impressive and the rover still functions well. Big reason for that is (eco-loons take note) it’s nuclear-powered, instead of having unreliable & under-powered solar-panels.

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